UK VoIP outfit Truphone has come up with a clever way to have an iPhone on the cheap - buy an iPod touch MP3 player and add software to turn it into a phone.
The two devices are remarkably similar to one another in many features except price. Amazon UK sells the 8GB iPod touch for £155 ($226), while an unlocked 8GB iPhone will set a determined buyer back at least £400 ($584), or a smaller sum plus a lengthy phone contract and around £30 per month. What the extra money buys is the iPhone's GSM phone and UMTS/HSDPA hardware.
However, Truphone noticed that the most recent version of the touch still has Wi-Fi, which is enough for the company's free VoIP software to route calls via that interface to its Internet traffic centre, and then on to recipients. Once the app is loaded, a virtual keypad is ised to dial the desired number; the only other addition needed is a microphone.
Voice recipients can be anyone running the same Truphone software on an iPod touch, users running Truphone on other platforms (the software debuted on Nokia/Symbian), or Google Talk running on a PC.
The best part is that not only is the software free, so are the calls in these scenarios. Truphone looks to make its money back by persuading touch users to call conventional phones or mobiles, for which the company charges.
Truphone said it planned to introduce new features in the near future, including the ability to phone and IM Skype and MSN VoIP users, and to check and set Twitter and Facebook. This hints that the user base for the software is probably the occasionally phone user who doesn't want to pay the heavy premium for the iPhone's connectivity.
Screenshots of the iPod touch software can be found on the company's website , as can a download of the app itself. Apple doesn't seem to feel threatened by the development, and if offering the software direct from iTunes. A version for the IPhone can also be loaded from this location, which might, you'd assume, upset the company's mobile network partners more
Truphone 4.0 was reviewed in-depth by Techworld last summer.